Tag Archives: Accountability

Rapid Fire Principles

9 Jan

rapid-fireYou can check out the podcast here.

The last time we were in Proverbs, we learned the wise man stays away from strife, but the fool argues about things that don’t matter. Don’t allow yourself to be baited into an argument. There are fights to fight, but this isn’t what Solomon is talking about. He’s talking about nonsensical arguments where you’re wasting breath. Be mindful of the plans others have or present to you. They may not be what they appear to be so take the time to ask the right questions. Loyalty and trustworthiness are qualities that are diminishing as we move through time. Become the person that God wants you to be. We saw the value of a godly king and the Queen of Sheba recognized that quality in Solomon. This morning, we’ll see some rapid fire principles; some that we’ve already looked at and we’ll also dive into the issue of trustworthiness.

Take a look at our passage found in Proverbs 20:9-19.

Let’s start with one of my favorite topics. Solomon says, “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from sin?’” It’s a rhetorical question, but we can quickly answer it. The standard for holiness is not being good. The standard for a relationship with God is not made on our terms.  No matter who you might think God is, you have to approach Him in the manner He has determined. The only way to approach God is in perfection and folks, we fall short. That’s why Solomon asks the simple question, “Who can say I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?” The answer is no one. Rom. 3:10 reminds us, “There is none righteous, not even one.” But it didn’t stop there. The conclusion to that thought is found in Rom. 6:23, “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” New life can come only after death. I know it may not make sense, but it’s true. When there is new life, the old is passed away. Your life is like the changing of the seasons. The dead, cold winter gives way to new life in the spring time. This verse is a realization that we are sinners and we cannot do anything to cleanse ourselves. 1 Jo. 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” In Rom. 3:9, Paul made sure everyone was on the same page when he asked the rhetorical question, “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” We are all born into sin. We can choose to stay in our sin or acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and Savior and turn from our wicked ways. Read Rom. 5:18-21 to learn that the purification comes from what Christ has done.

The shady business practices in v. 10 are the same things Solomon addressed in 11:1 when he said, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight.”

Look at the lad in v. 11. Notice it’s not what someone says although that’s important. “It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right.” The lad Solomon mentions is a young man. The idea is that young people generally are free from the pretenses grown-ups have. They have not yet learned the finer points of discretion. You’ve heard the phrase, “Out of the mouths of babes?” Kids are generally are a what you see is what you get kind of people. Kids don’t hide their motives. When they want something, they ask or demand it. The point is that it is the actions of the child indicate who he really is. Of course, the conduct of people can be evaluated as well. Solomon says so in the next verse: “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them.” This points to the fact that the Lord has given us ears to hear and eyes to see. You are able to judge the character of someone by what you see and hear.

Here’s a series of verses regarding work. There’s a lot here, but it’s pretty straightforward. Solomon says, “Do not love sleep, or you will become poor; open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with food.” Before social media, if you were tired, few people knew about it and it really didn’t matter because you had to live life. Today, being tired is a viable excuse not to fulfill any commitments you may have. You’re too tired so you call out of work. I’ve heard of people that are too tired to do housework and yard work; they’re too tired to go to Bible study, or Community Group and sometimes people can even be too tired to go to church. What’s funny is that people are rarely too tired to go to a party, baby shower, the movies, a concert, or the beach. I bring this up in light of the previous verse Solomon just said about the seeing eye and the hearing ear. You can talk a good game, but your actions scream out true intentions. Don’t be sleeping when there is work to be done.

“Bad, bad,” says the buyer, but when he goes his way, then he boasts.” This is for you people that love to shop in places where you can negotiate for the best price. You’re looking to get the best price so you tell the merchant what a piece of junk it is he’s trying to sell. You talk him down to a lower price then you go about bragging about how slick a negotiator you are.

“There is gold, and an abundance of jewels; but the lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.” This is a common theme throughout Proverbs. It’s way better to have knowledge than gold.

“Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; and for foreigners, hold him in pledge.” Back in Bible days, it was common practice to use a garment, a coat or cloak, as security for a debt. Today, we could think of this a title loan. There are a number of warnings in Proverbs about acting as security for other’s debt. We’ve seen it in 6:1, 11:15, 17:18, and we’ll see it again in 22:26. This isn’t a verse promoting harsh treatment. The point here is that if a person ignores this sound financial advice and makes a pledge for a stranger, then hold that stranger accountable. Take his garments or hold him in pledge as a servant so you don’t suffer loss. There is a difference between Christian charity and a lack of accountability. In today’s society, we think if someone is held accountable for their actions, whether it’s debt or holding to their faith or challenging someone on their ungodly beliefs that we are judgmental, unloving, and intolerant. Remember the housing crash where people were foreclosed on their homes? They couldn’t make their payments and the bank took back the house and somehow, the banks turned out to be the bad guys. Now, it’s awful that people lost their homes, but if you say you’re going to pay back a debt, shouldn’t you be held accountable?

“Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel.” This is about honesty. As I have mentioned many times, we often get requests from people that need help with a variety of financial issues. From the electric or water bill to repairs for their vehicle. Many times they have just gotten a job, but won’t get a paycheck for another week or two. Some of these people are telling the truth and some are not. How do you tell the difference? You don’t. If the Lord leads you to help someone and they misuse your generosity, that’s not on you, it’s on them. The advantage gained by someone being dishonest will be short lived. The gravel is not literal gravel, but the discomfort, pain, and suffering that come as a result of being dishonest.

“Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise guidance.” This is pretty self-explanatory, but I want to point out something I have experienced a number of times. As a shepherd or pastor, I am rarely brought into a discussion early in a decision making process. Too often, the person that has willingly submitted to membership and has voluntarily placed themselves under the authority of the church and her leadership, refuses to seek my guidance or input. There are a few exceptions, but my experience is that people will typically do what they want to do. Is it the day in which we live. The church has become really no different than any other organization. “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” A secret is just that.

It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong or sinful about it, but the person may not want it revealed at this point in time. People do have a right to privacy and no one wants that privacy violated. Maybe you reveal a secret under the guise of, they wouldn’t mind if I tell so and so. There are people I will never tell anything private. Solomon says don’t even associate with someone that has loose lips.

We began by asking the rhetorical question, who is without sin? The cleansing we enjoy is not because of anything we have done, by because of what Jesus did. Youngsters say what comes to mind because they haven’t developed the ability to hide their motives. We looked at a number of principles for daily, principled living whether it’s at home, the job, or in church. Next week, we’ll hopefully finish up this chapter by continuing to look at principles for daily living.

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Rampant Laziness and Assault

17 Oct

lazyCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that wisdom is not some elusive quality. You can develop wisdom by listening to the godly counsel of others. Godly counsel that has resulted from years of walking with God. A biblical worldview will lead to godliness for the rest of your days. Make intentional plans in your walk with God; He will reveal the path to take and be open to what He wants rather than what you want. Just because something seems good and right does not mean God wants you to do it. Being a follower of God does not mean nothing bad will ever happen in your life or the lives of those you love. Circumstances must not dictate your love or devotion to God. God is God and He is in control no matter what life may look like at any given moment. This morning, Solomon talks about laziness and assault with some very condemning word pictures.

I encourage you to take the time and read our passage found in Pro. 19:24-29.

Solomon starts off talking about laziness beyond imagination. You’ve probably dealt with some lazy people in your days, but this is lazy. This is a word picture so vivid, it should immediately conjure up an image in your brain. “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish, but will not even bring it back to his mouth.” Sluggard means slow or idle. You’ll see slugs in the garden and they’re typically pests. It’s a gastropod – a snail like creature without a shell. This guy is the poster child for laziness. Get this in your mind; this guy is so lazy that he exerts all his energy just to make the stretch to the food dish. Since he’s expended his energy, he just can’t find the strength to bring his hand back to his mouth to feed himself. How lazy do you have to be to have food in front of you, but you just can’t bring yourself to eat it? That’s lazy. Is there really anyone so lazy that they would die before expending the energy to eat? Maybe your husband might die if you didn’t feed him. At least that’s how it might seem. Solomon is speaking metaphorically. The instinct to eat is very powerful. I know it is sometimes difficult to get your list of things to do accomplished when it’s a rainy, gloomy day and all you want to do is lounge around and watch movies. But that’s not what Solomon is talking about. Everyone needs time to recharge their physical batteries. The person Solomon is talking about is a sluggard; it’s who he is. He’s lazy beyond imagination. He works at doing nothing. If you’re a Christian, this laziness isn’t possible because of the ongoing transformation in your heart.

It is somewhat awkward to transition between topics and Solomon does it again in the next verse. “Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd, but reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.” Before we get into it, rest assured this is not giving permission to put the smack down on someone. If we remember from previous uses of the word scoffer, it means contempt or openly expressed disdain. It is the feeling of contempt or feeling that something is unworthy. Think of it in this way. When people are held accountable for doing wrong, other people can benefit from it. Back in my Navy days, if someone got in trouble and went to Captain’s Mast, which is known as non-judicial punishment, the results were published so others could see what can happen when you do wrong. Our newspaper publishes the crime report every week and tells the readers who has been arrested and what the charge is. In a biblical context, we see the same thing. Deut. 13 tells us the punishment for idolatry was stoning. Deut. 13:11 concludes by saying, “Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and will never do such a wicked thing among you.” We saw just a couple of weeks ago that a stubborn and rebellious son could be stoned to death by the elders of the city. (Deut. 21:18-21) Before you go and tell me how barbaric that is, you have to go back to the root of the issue. These were consequences for violating God’s law. Nowhere in Scripture has it ever been permissible to go around killing or harming people. That’s what people miss. We want to live in a society where everyone else is held accountable, but many people don’t want to be held accountable for their own actions.

The New Testament is filled with examples of where we are commanded to hold ourselves and others accountable to the standards found in God’s unchanging word. Let me highlight three examples from three different writers.

  1. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” (Matt. 18:15-17)
  2. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (Ja. 5:16)
  3. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)

The goal is always recognition, redemption, and restoration. These verses apply in a Christian to Christian context. The principles of learning should be nothing new to us. Pro. 9:9, “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.” Pro. 17:10, “A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” God’s goal is not to hammer us every time we do wrong. His goal is for us to be continually transformed into the image of His Perfect Son. When we read the instruction manual first, the chances of failure are drastically reduced. When the scoffer is struck, even the naïve or simple can learn from it.

Here’s some more parenting advice. Look at vs. 26-27. We’ve seen the principle in v. 26 before, but I want to make sure you don’t miss that key phrase in v. 27. “Cease listening” is probably one of the most frustrating things in parenting. Quite honestly, this is one of the most frustrating things I engage in nearly every day. Many times it’s not that the listening stops, it’s that there’s no listening to begin with. You try to give some guidance and you’re waved off. Sometimes you’ll get the ‘I know what I’m doing’ look. Sometimes you’ll get the ‘I’ve already decided what to do and nothing you say is going to change my mind’ look. Sometimes you get the ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ look. When you quit listening to people who can provide you with good, solid biblical guidance that back it up with a lifetime of passionate following after God, “You will stray from the words of knowledge.” When you ignore the instructions, disaster results.

Let’s shift over to a rather amusing choice of words. Solomon says, “A rascally witness makes a mockery of justice, and the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity. Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and blows for the back of fools.” When you hear the word rascally, you might think of Bugs Bunny and his arch enemy Elmer Fudd. Maybe you think of Spanky and Alfalfa. A rascal in this context is an unprincipled or dishonest person. That makes sense doesn’t it? Someone that is unprincipled or dishonest will make a mockery of the justice system where people take an oath to defend the constitution or swear to tell the truth. There is still the fundamental tenant of our justice system that people will tell the truth. It’s a crime not to tell the truth in a court of law or to law enforcement. This guy is a liar, he is wicked, and he is a fool. Over and over again, Solomon has talked about the important of listening to wisdom. Over and over again, we’ve seen the wicked and the foolish fail to heed the godly wisdom of others. Judgment awaits him as judgment awaits all of us. I love how the Psalms start and it certainly fits here: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Ps. 1:1) In one of the most sobering verses in Scripture, Matt. 25:41 says, “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” The mocking and the evil and the wickedness will one day end. Until then, we need to follow the wisdom God has set forth in the Bible.

Laziness and authenticity as a follower of Christ are not compatible. It’s incomprehensible to use an ungodly adjective to describe your walk of faith. We should be growing more and more like Christ as we allow the transforming power of God to change us from the inside out. When you discipline someone and it’s made public, others will see that there are consequences for wrong doing. We must take the time to intentionally instruct others in the ways of faith. What if they don’t listen? It shouldn’t stop us from doing what is right. One thing that works my patience is for people to stop listening to wisdom when it’s obvious they could use some help. Do not cease to listen to the wisdom of others. We finished up by talking about that rascally witness. Don’t be him. Judgment is coming one day, let’s make sure we’re doing God’s work.

Sweet Success

4 Apr

HoneyYou can check out the podcast here.

Last time we were in Proverbs, we learned that trusting people can be a difficult thing to do, but God is not asking you to trust Him without good reason. When you get to know the God of the Bible, you’ll see He is exactly who He says He is and you really can trust Him. When you trust Him, you’ll be blessed – you’ll find favor with God. When you gain knowledge of God through the Bible, you’ll also gain understanding which leads to wisdom. That wisdom is easily recognized by people around you and provides them a limitless refreshing fountain of life if they’ll only listen to the godly wisdom that is contained within you. Fools don’t have that persuasiveness of speech; they just have nonsense. When it comes to eternity, don’t be a fool. This morning, we’ll see some sweet success.

Pro. 16:24-25 says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

I like this first verse. Solomon rephrases something he’s already talked about when he says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Even though we’ve seen words to this effect in Proverbs, I wanted to spend some time here because I think the word picture is so beautiful. A honeycomb is the storage place for honey and that’s the word Solomon intends. Honey is an incredible substance. On their trip to see the second in command in Egypt, Jacob (Israel) told his boys to, “Take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds.” (Gen. 43:11) The Promised Land was a land flowing with milk and honey. Samson killed a lion with his bare hands and then later returned to find the lion full on honey which he scooped out and ate as he walked. (Jud. 14:8) Jonathan’s eyes were brightened after eating honey in 1 Sam. 14:27. Honey was a regular part of John the Baptizer’s diet. (Matt. 3:4) Honey’s health benefits are widely publicized and it never goes bad. We use the word honey as a term of endearment.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb; they are comforting and soothing. There are many things I find pleasant, but may have no impact on eternity. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Solomon compares pleasant words to something that tastes good. The quickest way for a restaurant to fail is to have lousy food. A good, dark, strong cup of coffee brings me intense delight and comfort. And I’m sure you’ve heard the term comfort food. This type of food is supposed to transport you back to childhood where all your dreams were reality and you had no responsibility, no demands, no pressure, and no stress. Pleasant words are supposed to have an even bigger effect than that. Pleasant words can have a healing effect like a balm. I wonder if Solomon is thinking about the words penned by his father David in Ps. 19:7-11. The Law of God and the Word of God are eternally important for us. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) That’s why Solomon says pleasant words are, “Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Does this next verse sound familiar? Verse 25 is exactly the same as 14:12, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Why would the Holy Spirit inspire Solomon to say the same thing again? We’ve had a number of verses so far that convey the same overall meaning. Do you take it for granted? This is a caution against doing things on your own and it needs to be said again. When I tell you a cross reference for this verse is found in Pro. 12:15 it’ll all make sense, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Solomon is always contrasting wisdom and folly or righteous and unrighteous. When you consider your own ways and do not take the input of others, the end result is not generally good. There seems to be a right way to do things, but when you rely on yourself, it’s typically not good. It might turn out okay occasionally because even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.

Solomon is trying to get us to realize that we need other people in our lives. We don’t see loners in the Bible. The most vibrant, engaged Christians are those that are actively engaged in community. The followers that are growing the most are those that are engaged in fellowship with others that help them grow. The most authentic believers are those that are willing to place themselves under the authority of others; they don’t just do their own thing. If the way you’re going seems right to you but you’re alone, how will your course be corrected? If you just follow your heart, where will you be led? The Bible says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9) Sometimes it seems like we’re that three-year-old trying to tie his shoes saying, “I can do it myself.” It seems like we’re so desperate to do things on our own and we not only ignore godly guidance, we have a tendency to be offended if offered advice from someone older or more experienced. At the risk of tiring out this example, we have these mentors or guides in every aspect of life. The coach tells you what play to run or if you don’t come to practice, you can’t play. The teacher tells you to use a #2 pencil. The IRS tells you that your return must be postmarked no later than April 15th. The military tells you exactly how to wear your uniform. IKEA tells you how to put together their furniture.

We have little to no issue with this. After all, we want to play and we want to win. We want the computer to see our answers so we can pass the test. We don’t want to get a monetary penalty for filing late. We want our cool IKEA furniture to look right. When we transfer these same instructional ideas to the church, what happens? The music leader tells you your solo is cut or you’re singing flat. Someone offers some marriage advice or parenting guidance and all of a sudden, it’s none of your business. We have some misguided notion in the church that the only people that can offer advice are perfect people. Of course my marriage isn’t perfect, but how about learn from what I’ve messed up on and from what works for us. My kids aren’t perfect and I’ll tell you where I messed up so you won’t make the same mistakes I did. All of us tend to learn more from our mistakes and the mistakes of others, so why is it we’re so hard pressed against spiritual advice? “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The most vibrant, effective ministries are the ones where there is a spirit of unity, a spirit of mutual love and respect where Jesus is elevated to His appropriate place above all other things. It’s a place where the focus is on the main thing. It is entirely unrealistic to think we will have success in every single thing we do. Thomas Edison figured out 2000 ways the light bulb didn’t work before finding one that did. Our first year going to Romania was not what we would define as a success, but the lessons learned were invaluable in refining the goals for how we do mission work in Romania. Every trip we learned something that didn’t work and that forced us to self-examine what we were doing. Each year at C4, we learn things. I don’t want us to get so routine and stagnant, that we just continue on regardless of how ineffective we might be. Just because we’ve always done it, doesn’t mean we’ll continue. The church is a living, breathing organism. We are made up of people that are learning and growing Do you want to be more effective in life? In ministry? In Eternity? Surround yourself with people who want the same thing. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. There is no room in your life for people who will tell you what you what you want to hear, who will lie to you, who won’t hold you accountable. That’s not love. That’s foolish. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” Fools think they’re right and don’t bother getting the guidance of others.

Wise people seek out wiser people to check themselves. Wise people seek course corrections from other people. When you have people in your life that will tell you the truth in love, you’re going to grow. Don’t automatically ignore good counsel from others because you think you know it already. That’s a really dangerous place to be in. If you follow this guidance, I guarantee you’ll have sweet success.

Deceptive Doctrine

31 Aug

DeceptionYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week we learned that the Bible rarely speaks of the heart as an organ, but as the seat of emotion, the center of a person’s being. Solomon confirmed that you really can’t trust your heart; it will break, it will lead you astray. No one can really know exactly what’s going on in there either. When you follow your heart, you tend to do what is right in your own eyes and the result is death. This morning, Solomon touches on some things that might have you scratching your head and on something that many people have got dead wrong.

Pro. 14:13-14 says, “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end is the way of death. The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, but a good man will be satisfied with his.”

Emotions are complex. You’ve heard me say that it’s okay to feel something. No one can tell you how to feel or not to feel or how you should feel.   We saw last week that no one can really know how you feel. It’s wrong to deny the emotions that God gave you and often  we cannot control how we feel given a set of circumstances. One thing we can do is control how we respond to and in those circumstances. Here Solomon is giving us what seems like a conflicting set of emotions. He says, “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief.” How can your heart be in pain and still laugh? How can your heart hurt and still have happiness? The best way I can explain this is to illustrate it. Outward appearance often mask what’s going on in the heart of a person. Someone that is enduring great sorrow will be asked, “How are you doing?” The typical response is, “Fine.” There may be periods of laughter and happiness, but that will end and what’s inside will still be there. We laugh at funny things and we cry at sad things. Outward appearance can mask what’s going on inside. When you suppress those feelings by acting like you don’t have a care in the world, you miss out on what God wants to accomplish. It might be for your personal growth because we know, “We also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5) There’s not a single person here that’s in their right mind would ask God for trials and suffering. But you who have been through a trial and having reached the other side, you wouldn’t trade what you learned, wouldn’t trade how your faith has grown, wouldn’t trade how the Lord worked in you and through you. Emotions are very complex.

A really bad doctrine has been built on Solomon’s next verse. Here’s an example of why it’s poor hermeneutics, poor exegesis, and a total departure of 2 Tim. 2:15. The term backsliding in v. 14 is a general term used in the church to describe someone that made a profession of faith at some point in their life and then strayed off the path of righteousness, or someone that simply does not want to participate in the things of God, but they’ll stand on the confession of their faith. They typically occur for periods of time that can last months, years, or decades.

I’m going to speak in broad terms because there are always exceptions. There’s something very critical in this verse that refutes that argument. We’ve seen Solomon use this writing technique numerous times to this point. It is his use of the word, “but.” If a person has been truly saved, then old things are passed away and all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17) Romans 6 is one of the most important chapters in Scripture. I encourage you to study the entire letter of Romans. It has been called the Constitution of our faith. Everything in our walk with Christ must be compared with the foundation established in Romans. I want to highlight a couple of important verses in this very critical chapter to help us understand why we are where we are in the church.

Before I get to Rom. 6:1, Paul has spent significant time laying the foundation of faith in his letter to the Romans. In Chap. 1 he said that God puts a desire in each person to know the Creator. He spoke of people that won’t acknowledge God who were unrighteous, wicked, greedy, evil, envious, killers, deceitful, malicious, untrustworthy, unloving, and disobedient among a host of other characteristics that were worthy of death because they practiced these things. He spoke of Jews and Greeks and confirmed that God shows no partiality to either because all have sinned. He spoke of the Law which served to show people they are accountable to God. We are justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 3:24) Faith is credited as righteousness. We have been justified by faith and God demonstrated His love for us while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8) Where sin increased, grace increased all the more. So now comes the pivotal chapter 6. Paul laid the foundation of salvation through grace by faith and now he says, “Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?” (Rom. 6:1) He answers his own question in v. 2 by saying, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Look at the conditional statement in vs. 5-15. I wish I had time to go through all of it. The bottom line is that as professing believers, there should never be a period of time where you slide back into old habits, where you look and act like the world, where ungodliness and wickedness is excused under some misguided notion of grace. We in the church are partially responsible for this. In every facet of life, there seems to be some form of accountability. You hold your kids accountable for their chores, their grades, and their behavior. But lately, it seems that our society is becoming increasingly willing to excuse unacceptable behavior.

That has made its way into the church as well. There is an overall unwillingness to hold people accountable for their actions and we make excuses for them. There seems to be someone else that is responsible. Their upbringing or background. Their ignorance – they just didn’t know any better. I think it’s an effort to strike a balance between exercising mercy and grace without coming across judgmental. That’s not a bad thing. We don’t want to have an air of superiority or of false piety, but at the same time, we have to be willing to stand on truth without compromise. It can be very painful to realize that someone you love dearly who has professed to be a believer simply isn’t. You cannot excuse a total lack of Christian growth and call it backsliding. If your baby stopped eating, growing, and learning, you’d rush him to the doctor.

Paul says in Rom. 6:17-18, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” The principle of Christian living is an essential element of the New Testament. Living an authentic life for Christ does not save us, but is evidence of a life that has been redeemed by Christ. The people that cry out that we are saved by grace don’t fully understand grace. Paul established that we do not sin greater and greater to show God’s grace is abounding. Tit. 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age.” The grace of God is the Lord Jesus Christ. If He’s powerful enough to redeem your soul; I think he’s powerful enough to change you from the inside out. Rom. 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” John the beloved is pretty clear in his first letter on this topic of authenticity in our walk of faith. If we say we have fellowship with Christ, if we say we’re believers and yet walk – present tense – in darkness, we’re liars. In 1 Jo. 2:1 he says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.” Sin here is a verb. The Holy Spirit through John is telling us not to commit a sinful act, not to have a sinful thought, He is telling us to be perfect. John had just said in 1:8 and 10, that if we say we have no sin, we’re deluded. This is why verb tense is so important in Scripture. This is in the aorist tense indicating a single point in time. He is saying don’t commit individual acts of sin. BUT since you will, God made a way to cleanse us through the blood of Christ who John calls the Advocate in v. 2. Advocate is a legal term that means someone that speaks on behalf of another. Jesus Christ the righteous intercedes on our behalf before the Father. The assumption is that you are not living a lifestyle of sin because that would be inconsistent with the teaching in Scripture. There is no such thing as being an authentic believer and then having a period of time where you turn your back on all things Jesus Christ. I don’t see that modeled in the Bible.

Are there people in the Bible that did terrible things, that engaged in immorality, that lied, cheated and stole? Of course, but I am not aware of anyone in Scripture that is an example of what we have defined as a backslider. It’s a doctrine invented to make us feel good about people that are not really saved. If we really engaged in intentional, consistent discipleship from the beginning, I think things would be a lot different. When we take the time to teach and invest in people using the Bible and engage in this thing called discipleship, we are much more effective in enabling and encouraging spiritual growth.

Walking with Christ is a lifelong endeavor, it is an ongoing process. There are no shortcuts. It is scripturally incomprehensible to excuse a lifestyle of sin by declaring a person has backslidden. Solomon says the backslider in heart. Notice the contrast word but. “But a good man will be satisfied with his.” His ways are God’s ways and that’s why it’s satisfying. Let’s be intentional in making disciples and teaching the commands of God. Let’s be intentional in our walk with Christ.

Community Disorganizers

11 May

You can check out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon laid out some principles that will help us sail smoothly through life. Righteous people are delivered from death where the wicked take their place. A very important principle Solomon introduced is the value and wisdom of godly counsel. Smooth sailing does not mean there won’t be issues or trouble in this life, but the righteousness of the godly provide the tools necessary to glorify God and remain steadfast in His will. This morning, Solomon provides us some principles that apply as we engage in activities typically associated with the community.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 11:15-21.

The first principle we’ll look at today  has been said before and the question remains, who would do this? Back in 6:1 Solomon used the conditional clause, “If you have become surety for your neighbor.” That verse was generally directed at debt and it was conditional. The principle comes full circle when Solomon says, “He who is a guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it.” The answer does not have to do with sin, but with wisdom. There is no prohibition against cosigning a loan for someone. Insert the word someone for stranger and you get the application for us. Since we’re talking about wisdom and not sin, you need to evaluate the circumstances. Solomon is saying when you act as surety for someone, as a guarantor for someone, you “will surely suffer for it.” Not everyone that has served in that capacity has suffered for it. He’s speaking in general terms. And what kind of suffering are we talking about? The word used here for suffering means to be affected by something. Even if that person you act as a guarantor for pays back the loan, you still had that responsibility hanging over your head. You take on the responsibility for the loan because you know the person, you know his circumstances, you know their habits, and their values. You believe it’s safe. When you get involved in the financial affairs of others, it’s generally painful. That’s what Solomon is saying. “But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.” If you don’t cosign this loan, I won’t be able to buy that car, house, boat, etc. There is no scriptural mandate to take on the responsibility of someone else’s debt. When you have a general aversion to this, Solomon says you are secure. There’s nothing in the back of your mind, you don’t think about it, nothing hanging over your head. You free up brain cells because it’s one less thing to think about.

Our second principle tells us, “A gracious woman attains honor.” I love that word gracious. I think of the ladies of Downton Abby with their proper manners, their decorum, their sophistication, their elegance. Of course, it’s easy to do all that when you have someone else that gets you dressed and feeds you and takes care of all the chores. Gracious here means courteous, kind, and pleasant. You do not have to be wealthy to be gracious. He’s talking about the beautiful character of a gracious woman. Families and communities honor such women. I think of women like Barbara and Laura Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Of course those are all famous women. I also think of my wife whom I absolutely adore. It’s not just because she’s gorgeous, she is a true woman of God. In the context of Proverbs, I think graciousness and godliness go hand in hand. We’re not talking about perfection, but a passionate pursuit of Christ.

What’s very curious is the contrast Solomon uses next. “A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches.” It’s good to be ruthless in business, right? We have shows like the Shark Tank and the Apprentice that demonstrate the ruthlessness needed to get ahead in business. Being ruthless is how you get rich in business. It means showing no compassion. Cut throat, eliminate the competition, work harder and smarter than the other guy. We even have corporate espionage. This is the only place in Proverbs where Solomon makes a comparison of this type between a man and a woman. He compares a kindhearted or gracious woman and a ruthless man. That ruthless man wants to get ahead and he’ll get ahead by any means necessary. They seek respect and honor by what they do, but the gracious woman gains honor by being nice. It seems that grace is better than strength and honor is better than wealth. If you let that verse stand alone, it can easily be misunderstood. When you take v. 16 with v. 17, the whole picture becomes clearer. “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” Look at the pattern of the people in these two verses: kind woman; ruthless man; merciful man; cruel man. It seems mercy has a medicinal quality to it – someone that practices mercy makes himself good. When you are cruel, you end up hurting yourself so don’t be cruel.

Here’s a familiar principle. Vs. 19-20 says, “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” We see a pattern here as in the previous two verses. Solomon talks about wickedness, righteousness, righteousness, and wickedness. Those exact words may not be used, but they convey the same idea. Solomon is driving home the point of the results of wicked behavior. “The wicked earn deceptive wages.” Those wages are deceptive because they are fleeting. Those riches are left behind and all are made equal at death. The wealth of a person is not taken into consideration at judgment. Paul said it this way, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) If you’re thinking that’s not the same thing, Solomon goes on to say, “But he who sows righteousness will attain to life.” That life will be long, healthy, and prosperous. The opposite is true, when you pursue evil, you will die. You can’t blame God when your evil ways, your evil behavior, and your evil manner of life leads to your death. Paul’s next thought was, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Goodness and evil are incompatible. Those qualities may have been part of your character, but God changes you through Christ. That’s where true freedom lies. The wicked earn deceptive wages, but the righteous are paid in wages that are eternal. That’s what verse 19 is saying. When you are consistent and persistent in righteousness, you attain life. Steadfast means dutifully firm and unwavering. If you are truly a child of the King, this quality is supernaturally infused into your DNA. That’s why I get so weary with people profess to be Christians and the only evidence to support that is occasional church attendance and some don’t even do that. Pursuers of evil bring about their own death. To close out this section, Solomon gives us another contrast and it has to do with judgment.

Verse 20 says, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord.” Perverse means an obstinate desire to behave unacceptably and in context, it’s from God’s perspective. Perverse is translated “froward” in other versions which means hypocrisy and double dealings. Justice is pretended, but wrongdoing is what’s in store. Notice that it’s the heart – the seat of the soul. What’s in the heart comes out. You can pretend with other people, you might even fool yourself, but you can’t hide it from God. “. . . .but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” I’m sure you know why this is. It’s a no brainer really. Walk refers to manner of life. It refers to who a person is . . . . really. I think people spend a lot of effort pretending to be something they are not. People pretend they have a relationship with God, but without a corresponding lifestyle of godliness. Its often veiled in false spirituality where the words lead, led, feel, moving, etc. are used to put people into an incontestable position to do what they want to do. I always find it amusing that this leading rarely is to a place of deeper commitment, devotion, or duty, but rather to places of limited accountability and lower expectations. God takes great pleasure in His children that are willing to follow Him in directions they were not expecting.

Just to be sure you know exactly where Solomon is coming from, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendents of the righteous will be delivered.” I think we all know that evil will be dealt with, but the second part is not so clear. Do not read that to say if you are a child of God, your children have a place reserved for them because of who you are. Don’t equate deliverance with eternity. Deliverance does not mean salvation.  The idea is that your behavior affects not just you, but your children and your grandchildren too. Sometimes God sees fit to deliver because of their godly ancestors. The Old Testament is filled with examples of this.

In these verses, Solomon speaks of the affect of our lifestyle on our community. That lifestyle, whether godly or wicked impacts people. As the behavior and thinking of the people move away from godliness, the morality of the society declines. I think we would agree that we can see this happening all around us. The answer is not for us to shrink away from godliness, but to boldly live our lives as an example of Christ’s transforming power in our lives.

Real Stewardship

7 Apr

PlantYou can listen to the podcast here.

In the past couple of weeks we’ve looked at the basics of giving. We looked at some examples of giving in Scripture and established some principles of biblical giving and the tithe. Hopefully, things are a bit clearer for you. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to look at some specific teachings of Jesus that deal with stewardship. In our first example, there’s a dual implication of the teaching.

I hope you’ll look at Luke 19:11-27 with us.

Here’s the background. Luke begins by saying, “While they were listening to these things.” The “things” represent the story of Zaccheus. He was a chief tax collector and he was rich. As Jesus entered Jericho, Zaccheus wanted to see Him, but he was very small. In order to get a better look, he climbed a sycamore tree. Jesus sees him and tells him that He’s going over to stay at his house. Zaccheus recognized that Jesus was, “The way, the truth, and the life.” (Jo. 14:6) Zaccheus gives away half his possessions to the poor as a demonstration of repentance. So often today, we talk about repentance, but don’t really see it demonstrated. We’ll look at Zaccheus again in a couple of weeks.

No other New Testament book is as concerned about possessions as the writings of Luke. Luke writes about selling possessions in 12:33, about giving up everything to be a disciple in 14:33. He writes about the rich young ruler and treasure in heaven in 18:22 and emphasizes generosity and giving. He warned us of the danger of possessions and even said that riches were a primary reason for choking God’s Word in 8:14. The list goes on and on. So the crowds continued to follow Jesus and they approached Jerusalem. Jesus speaks to them in a parable because the people thought, “The Kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.” Remember a common theme among the early disciples was the timing for this Kingdom stuff. It seems like they thought once they got to Jerusalem, Jesus would overthrow the Roman government and establish His Kingdom. That’s not the case, so Jesus uses this as an opportunity to teach.

Here’s the assignment. Look at vs. 12-14. In addition to the nobleman, there are two other groups of people mentioned. The slaves did business for the nobleman. The citizens hated the nobleman and didn’t want him to rule over them. Notice that the citizens said, “We don’t want this man to reign over us,” – present tense. They were adamant about that so they sent a group of people to protest the appointment. In verse 13, the nobleman, “Called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business with this until I come back.’” Each slave got a mina – equivalent to about 100 days wages. They are to conduct business with the money, but just until the nobleman returns from the distant country. “When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.” (Lu. 19:15) The nobleman returned and the first thing he wants to know is what happened to the money the slaves were entrusted with. The first slave turned that 1 mina into ten – a 1000% return and was rewarded with authority over ten cities. The second slave turned that mina into five – 500% return and was given authority over five cities.

Then there is the last slave. He had a different plan and got different results. In v. 20 the last slave said, “Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief.” You’ve got to wonder what this slave was thinking. I don’t know if the slaves talked with each other about what business they were doing with the mina. I don’t know if they checked on each other’s progress. When the nobleman comes back, maybe this is the first opportunity the slaves have to be together. He’s just watched the first two guys and what they did and how they’re rewarded. So the slave goes on to say, “I was afraid of you.” Why is the slave afraid? “Because you are an exacting man,” Exacting means harsh or severe. The slave justified this by saying, “You take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” In reality, what that slave just saw was contrary to what he thought of the nobleman. He just witnessed the nobleman rewarding the other slaves, and the nobleman was quite generous. This sounds an awful lot like justification for his disobedience.

In v. 13, the nobleman assigned the slaves the task of doing business and in v. 15, he holds them accountable for what was given them. We’ve seen that the first slave got ten cities and the second slave got five cities. The third slave was rebuked in v. 22-23. If the slave really believed the nobleman was so exacting, he could have at least put the mina in the bank and gained some interest. Look at the reward of the third slave in v. 24. What the slave had was taken away and given to the first slave. In v. 25, the people protested for the sake of fairness. That guy already has ten minas. Verse 26 contains a shift and provides a harsh reality. The slave was disobedient and tried to justify it by saying the nobleman was exacting. It’s the reality of obedience versus disobedience. It is stewardship of what we have been given. We’re not asked to be stewards of what we don’t have. It’s the same thing Luke said in 8:18, “So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” The people who have will have more because they’ll continue doing the things that got them there while the people who have not, will continue doing those things that got them there and even what they have will be taken away.

I don’t want you to miss the other aspect of this parable. This is clearly a parable of stewardship, but stewardship is required because the nobleman has left to receive a kingdom and then he will return. When Jesus returns, He will reward the faithful servants (vs. 15-19), deal with the unfaithful servants (vs. 20-26), and judge His enemies (v. 27). The unfaithful servant had no excuse; his unjust fear kept him from doing what was right when it should have driven him to serve. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Lord will give us exactly what we deserve. Until that time we must, as v. 13 says, do business until He comes back.

Empty Promises

1 Jul

Empty PromisesYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last week it took a donkey speaking with the voice of a man to get the attention of a false prophet. Balaam may have been spared with the help of his donkey, but in the end, judgment came when he was killed fighting against Israel. The hopes of people that listened to the bad teaching of the false teachers that promised water for thirsty souls were left dry, discouraged, and empty. Peter revealed their true, ungodly character and shifted to the affect the teachers had on others by comparing them to springs without water and mists driven away by storms. This morning, Peter continues with the adverse affect these people have on others.

2 Pet. 2:18-19 says, For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”

Listen to how the false teachers talk. They are, “Speaking out arrogant words of vanity.” Remember Peter earlier described them as daring and self willed. He’s expanding on that idea. They’re arrogant – they think very highly of themselves. They’re talking with words that make them sound important. It’s like they enjoy hearing themselves talk. Have you heard the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.” It comes from Pro. 17:28 that says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.” Not these false teachers. Their arrogant words are, “vanity.” They’re empty. They talk for the sake of talking while saying little of substance.

And here it is again. “They entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality.” The false teachers say there’s no judgment for sensuality so it’s okay to give in to those fleshly desires. Remember the meaning of entice. They’re using bait to get unstable souls to bite. They’re trying to trap people and it’s not by accident. They know the pull of the world and all that it contains, but Christians are supposed to resist the pull of the world. We’re supposed to be different, we’re supposed to be pure, and holy, and righteous. We’re supposed to have moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These are the qualities that are supposed to set us apart from the world. But these false teachers are luring others from the truth, from the straight and narrow path, from the way of truth.

Who are the targets? “Those who barely escape from the ones living in error.” The English translation of the Greek here is somewhat difficult. The word barely should likely have been translated “just” or “recently.” In the N.T., error in this context typically means unsaved. The ones living in error are lost people. In essence the false teachers target recent converts to Christ. They do it in two ways: with their arrogant words and their encouragement to indulge the flesh. They are full of confidence in what they say, but Peter declared it was empty talk. We see this today. People declare the Lord leadeth, yet if they allow you to press them, which many won’t; their strong conviction comes up shallow. If the Lord really is leading you to do something, then have the courage and confidence to say it’s Jesus. Don’t go slinking around, don’t be deceptive, don’t lie. I’m amazed at the people that say these type of things that in the end are just doing what they want to do and don’t want anyone to question, confront, or challenge them. You can see how vitally important discipleship is. Without a firm foundation, the building collapses.

Here comes the hollowness. “Promising them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of corruption.” Have you ever heard the phrase, “Physician, heal yourself?” It means take care of what’s wrong in your own life before telling others how to live and it comes from Luke 4:23. These false teachers were attempting to provide hope to recent converts while they did not know the hope themselves. They are, “slaves of corruption.” This is hypocrisy at its fullest. They promise freedom, but they deliver slavery. “That the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Rom. 8:21) They deliver the opposite of what Christ promises. Over the course of our Christian walk of faith, we’re to become more and more like Christ. We were slaves of sin and became obedient. We were freed from sin to become slaves of righteousness. They taught no judgment; they denied boundaries, but God’s Word provides us what we need to know. Romans 6 is very clear regarding the Law verses grace and I encourage you to take the time to read and understand this pivotal chapter. Peter’s conclusion is found in v. 18: “For by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.” The false teachers were motivated by greed. Greed controlled their agenda, controlled their desires, and controlled their actions.

You can apply this principle to most everything. When boundaries are not established and adhered to, most anything can become sinful. As we’ll see in the next couple of verses, there is a way to victory.

Top 10 Reasons to Stay in Your Church

3 Jun

I had an earlier post about reasons one might look for another church. I think there are a lot of reasons people come up with and think they should leave a local assembly, but are not actually viable reasons to bolt from an assembly. The church is a family, the family of God. Families sometimes go through rough times, but they’re still a family. Families work through difficulties.

While there may be many reasons someone may move on from a church, there are reasons to stay too. In no particular order:

  1. The church is intentionally engaged in discipleship.
  2. Personal accountability is demonstrated by leadership.
  3. Church leadership is transparent.
  4. The pastor preaches expositionally and actually uses the Bible.
  5. The church is intentionally engaged in outreach.
  6. The church has clearly  delineated expectations from members.
  7. Church members are growing in their relationship with Christ (related to #1, 4, and 9).
  8. Church members are actively engaged in connecting to one another.
  9. The church is doctrinally solid.
  10. The pastor is an avid LOST fan.

Stay tuned for the top 10 LAME reasons to leave a church.